Behind the Hymn: Living for Jesus
Despite his lack of formal education, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm became a teacher at the age of sixteen. By the age of twenty-one, he was associate editor for his hometown
newspaper Franklin Advocate.
He became a Christian in 1893, due to the ministry of Henry Clay Morrison, who founded Asbury College and Seminary in Kentucky.
While ordained into the ministry, he had to leave a short time later due to ill health.
Chisholm relocated to Winona Lake, Indiana to recover and sold insurance for a living.
C. Harold Lowden composed a song for children that was titled “Sunshine Song” in 1915. Two years later, he was preparing to publish a songbook and contacted Thomas, asking him to compose new words.
Chisolm protested that he had never written a text for an existing tune. Lowden insisted saying he “believed God had led me to select him” to provide a text to this music.
Thomas, who could not read music, asked his daughter to hum the melody over and over to him. He did so until the words came to him.
Thomas returned the tune with four stanzas and a refrain to Lowden. This is the hymn Living for Jesus.
The hymn first appeared in print int he spring of 1917 and that fall published in the compilation Uplifting Songs.
Chisolm wrote songs as a personal preference and wrote over 1,200 poems. Over 800 of his songs were published in The Sunday School Times, Moody Monthly and Alliance Weekly or set to music.
Some of his songs include O to Be Like Thee and Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm died in 1960 at the age of 94.
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